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Added October 19th, 2015 by Ian

Lionel Messi staring 22 months prison time in the face

Argentine international striker Lionel Messi of Barcelona FC is facing up to 22 months in prison if he’s found guilty of tax fraud in Spain. Messi, who’s regarded as one of the top two soccer players on the planet along with Portuguese forward Cristiano Ronaldo of Real Madrid, will have to stand trial after a Spanish judge refused to drop charges against him. Oddly enough it was the prosecution that asked for the tax fraud charges to be dismissed.

Both Messi and Jorge Horacio Messi, who is the soccer layer’s father, allegedly defrauded the Spanish government of about $5 million by hiding money in offshore companies. Messi and his dad both deny doing anything wrong, but they also handed over $6.25 million in to the Spanish tax authorities back in 2013. This type of money isn’t usually handed over to the taxman unless it’s owed in the first place. The prosecutors attempted to focus the case on Messi Sr., but the judge said Lionel Messi knew enough about where the money was going to be included in the charges.

The problems relates to royalties that are paid to the soccer player for the use of his image in advertising by big companies such as Pepsi-Cola, Procter and Gamble, and Adidas. Messi and his father have been charged with three counts of tax fraud for failing to pay a further $4.5 million in taxes between 2007 and 2008. The younger Messi told the judge that he wasn’t aware of what his father was doing with the money, but the judge didn’t buy it. The trial will be held in Barcelona and prosecutors will now be asking for the full punishment of 22 months for the pair.

There has been no date set for the trial, but Messi will have plenty of time to get his story straight since he’s currently out of action with an injury and isn’t expected back on the football pitch until November. The last time the Messi’s were requested to show up in court was in September of 2013, but the judge just recently ruled that the case would carry. Messi Sr. told the court that financial advisors were to blame if any wrongdoing is found. As well as paying several million dollars to the taxman to cover unpaid money that was owed between 2007 and 2009, reports said the pair paid well over $10 million for unpaid taxes from 2010 to 2011.

Spanish authorities are cracking down on tax cheats since the country has been in a recession and has a high unemployment rate. The Barcelona team is also in trouble with authorities on a separate issue which alleges that team president Sandro Rosell misappropriated funds in 2013 to hide the true cost of a transfer fee when they club bought Brazilian international striker Neymar from Brazilian club. In addition, the team was handed a year-long transfer ban by FIFA last year for signing underage players to its academy.

 
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